How to be a full-time artist?

digital graphic david lagesse

I have often asked myself, can anyone be a full-time artist? Have you ever wondered if there is a formula that can be followed to understand how to turn your hobby into a business? Is it possible for anyone to learn how to be an artist and generate regular revenue from this passion or must we continue to rely on trial and error?

Starting a new project or in the process of expanding your activities? Maybe you are fresh out of school or university. If this sounds like you then It is important to consider structuring yourself in a manner that will make it easy for your clients to collaborate with you. In order to find out how to be a full-time artist, we first need to make a change in our minds. Many artists treat their passion as a hobby and wonder why they are not making more sales. Too often artists focus most of their time and energy toward creating art, leaving a gap when it comes to marketing, management, sales, and networking. I will take you through some simple steps so that you can decide if anyone can be a full-time artist.

Before you sit down to write your letter of resignation, let me debug some uncertainties about what it really takes to run your hobby as a business.

The first thing you must realize is that you are the only one who can steer your ship. Like with any industry you need to be prepared and motivated to hang on during the stormy times. The results will show only when you put in the effort to make the changes that are needed to succeed.

The success of your art depends on how you create it and then sell it.

Secondly, the art industry and future opportunities are as abundant as your imagination. If you are struggling to increase the sales volume of your art, then there is a good chance you are not reaching the right audience for your style of work or the diversity and quantity of your product range is not optimized to generate multiple revenue channels.

Do you want to find out? Can anyone be a full-time artist?

Try answering the next few questions in the most objective way possible instead of what you feel you should be answering, be honest with yourself.

There are no right or wrong answers here, simply a few questions that may help clarify some grey zones about your next big decision. What will it take for you to decide if you are ready for full-time art or not?

Question 1.

I create art the most when I?

  • Am on Holidays
  • Go traveling
  • Feel inspired
  • Find some spare time
  • Am at work

Question 2.

I would prefer to make art when I?

  • Am on Holidays
  • Go traveling
  • Feel inspired
  • Find some spare time
  • Am at work

Question 3.

When I create art my focus is mainly on?

  • Relaxing & experimenting
  • Worrying if people will like it
  • Trying to fit into a community
  • Being unique to my style
  • Making art I believe in

Question 4.

If I was a full-time artist I would?

  • Enjoy the flexible hours
  • Be more creatively productive
  • Not know where to start
  • worry about financial pressures
  • Be a much happier person

Question 5.

I am currently making?

  • Art I don’t know how to sell
  • Art I don’t want to sell
  • No money from selling my art
  • A little bit of money from selling my art
  • Not enough money from selling my art
  • Enough money from selling my art

What are the financial implications?

Let’s review some of the advantages and disadvantages of being a full-time artist. You might have already answered some of these topics yourself in the questions above, however, I will go through a few of the obvious scenarios.


  1. The revenue opportunities are much more diverse than a fixed salary.
  2. You are in control of your time management and work hours provided that you deliver.
  3. You will be able to earn a good living from your passion only if you produce and market accordingly.
  4. Being in control of your actions, successes, and failures builds confidence as well as experience.


  1. Lack of sales may lead to unstable revenue resulting in stress demotivation, and a low self-esteem instead of financial freedom.
  2. You find yourself working longer hours to make up for losses causing fatigue, lack of inspiration and a lot less passion.
  3. As a full-time artist, you are dependant on your productivity and creativity to make sales rather than earning a fixed salary in a creative job.

Getting to know your market

Being a full-time artist requires you to have a good understanding of your niche market. To avoid any nasty surprises it is strongly advised to do some research before you take any major decisions.

Do not skip this step. It is essential to understand what you are getting yourself into. Once you have done this you can easily make decisions and ask yourself a few important questions. I have prepared a few examples to get you started.

Question 1.

Is my art clearly different from other artists?

  • Yes completely different.
  • A little bit different.
  • No, it’s similar to other artists.

Question 2.

Does my art have WOW! factor?

  • My family and friends think so.
  • My art gets positive recognition from a wider public.
  • I don’t know as I have not shown my work to people.
  • My work is good but not yet WOW!

Question 3.

Does my art have a consistent theme I can develop further over time?

  • Yes! My art follows a consistent theme.
  • No! My art is all over the place with different styles.

Question 4.

Is my art affordable to make in large quantities?

  • Yes! I can produce a constant volume of work at an affordable price.
  • I don’t know I have never calculated the cost price of my work.
  • No! my art is expensive to make.

Question 5.

Will my art stand alone in a gallery and sell?

  • Most certainly, I am already selling in galleries.
  • Only a few select pieces might sell.
  • Not at all my art needs improvement.
  • If I change my subject maybe I have a chance.
  • My art has the potential to sell but not in galleries.

Assuming that you are now ready to take action and start monetizing your hobby in a more structured way, there are a few more additional steps to be taken. You can easily identify your personal strengths and weaknesses by going through this next series of questions and then deciding for yourself.

This section specifically refers to the daily running of your business activities. You will be able to identify the tasks that you are comfortable with as well as those that will require you to gain additional experience and knowledge.

The good news is that you can always get started today with what you are good at and keep fine-tuning your weaknesses as you progress. Remember turning your art hobby into a business is above all a change in your mindset and a decision you make to better your life.

There are certainly important elements that may require you to seek professional advice and coaching, but for the most part, if you apply your common sense and have the motivation to learn, you should be just fine.

I have prepared a list of the most relevant categories that you should be familiar with in order to run a successful art business. See how you shape up and what you need to work on.

Category 1.

Pricing your artwork and managing your stock.

  • I can do this I am great with numbers.
  • No idea where to start with pricing.
  • I am organized so I keep my records digitally.
  • Computers are not for me so I keep a logbook.

Category 2.

Marketing & Communication

  • I am creative but don’t have enough knowledge in this area.
  • I understand the importance but don’t take the time for it.
  • Marketing & communication tools work for me.
  • I know it is important but don’t know where to start.
  • No time for this and prefer to outsource this service.

Category 3.

Distribution network & Commissioning

  • This is not something I have considered before
  • I have tried in the past without any success.
  • Commission work is unstable to make it sustainable.
  • I am keen but don’t know where to find galleries for my work.
  • When I have more stock I will be able to consider this.

Category 4.

Diversifying your skills with multiple revenue opportunities

  • My art can be adaptable to sell in different ways and forms.
  • My art can only be sold the way I make it.
  • I would like to diversify but I don’t know where to start.
  • I have tried this in the past but it didn’t work out very well.
  • This is a priority I would like to focus on to develop a brand.

Category 5.

Running a studio or Co-working space.

  • I am already working in a studio.
  • I would like to work in a shared space but don’t know where to go.
  • For now, I am working from home but realize it is not ideal for the long term.
  • I can’t afford to have my own space for now but I hope to soon.
  • My art requires me to work outdoors so I don’t need a space for now.

Where do I start?

If you have gone through each step and checked all your answers then by now have a clear idea if you are ready to take the next steps to upgrade your hobby into a full-time business. You don’t have to master every aspect of your business from day one. The most important thing to do is to take the right decision that will work for you.

Maybe consider preparing a timeline that will help you achieve some milestones over a set period of time and then work towards checking that list off one by one.

That’s great but I still don’t know how to be a full-time artist.

If you would like to have more information about setting up an art business, or you are still unsure how to go about starting, then you can contact me for a chat to discuss your work.

If you need additional support to start up your art business then you can write to me with a brief introduction of what you want to achieve as an artist. I would like to help you with some services to get you off the ground faster. What if you could have a support network that helps you with:

  1. Regular support and coaching
  2. A comprehensive portfolio evaluation
  3. Marketing tips and strategies
  4. Guidelines for setting up your business
  5. Brand strategies to promote yourself and your artwork across multiple platforms online and offline
  6. Gain access to networking opportunities
  7. Information about merchandising your products
  8. Portfolio advice for interviews and gallery representation
  9. A comprehensive guide to pricing your artwork
  10. Understanding how commissioning and private sales work
  11. Where to position yourself in the market and how to remain unique to your style.
  12. Receive a basic overview of administration and banking procedures for invoicing, taxes and receipts.

Can anyone be a full-time artist? Are you ready to take up the challenge?

David Lagesse

Full-time artist David Lagesse